The first domino has fallen. Kevin Garnett is back. Now Danny Ainge must reconstruct his roster, and it’s looking more and more like he’ll have to do that from within. Brandon Bass and Ray Allen are big question marks in terms of their return, but the other core players, including Jeff Green and Chris Wilcox, should be there for the taking. Mickael Pietrus wants to return and could likely be had for a cap-friendly price. Picking up the qualifying offer on Greg Steimsma is almost a certainty. From there it gets a little fuzzy, but the feeling is that Ainge will sign from within, go after one or two free agents, and possibly shoot for a sign and trade.
Whatever happens, next year’s team seems destined to have the same feel as last year’s version, with a few tweaks. And I’m good with that. I trust what Ainge is doing. He knows what he needs to compete, and he knows that he’s limited in the pieces that he can add from the outside. He’ll get as creative as he can, but there’s only so much he can do.
I like what Ainge did with the draft. He tried to move but couldn’t, so he stood firm and picked two players that can help this team in some form or fashion next season. Jared Sullinger should get up to speed quickly – he’s smart, poised and motivated to prove that teams in the lottery shouldn’t have passed him up. Fab Melo should be able to run the court and bang. He’ll collect his fair share of fouls in the process, and he’ll likely be a stiff on the offensive end. That’s okay – we’ll take that, as long as we have some size at the center position.
The way Ainge handled the KG situation shows his skill as a basketball executive. He gave KG his space, and he deferred to Garnett entirely. No pressure. And when Garnett decided to return, Ainge made sure that he worked the dollars in such a way that keeps Garnett compensated as a league elite. Ainge deserves all the kudos in the world for the way he handled that situation.
Jeff Green will likely sign with the Celtics, in large part due to how Ainge handled Green’s heart valve situation. He was very caring of Green and his family, and he went the extra mile by allowing Green to become an unrestricted free agent. A gamble to be sure, but David Falk (Green’s agent) sure sounds like Green will work with the Celtics to get a deal done. More kudos to Ainge.
So there is more work to be done, more heavy lifting to occur before we have our lineup. Ainge will do his best to put the pieces in place to contend for a championship next spring.
You can bank on it, in spite of the cap issues staring him in the face.